The Man Box: A study on being a young man in Australia

Man Box rules

The Man Box: A study on being a young man in Australia is the first comprehensive study that focuses on the attitudes to manhood and the behaviours of young Australian men aged 18 to 30. It involved an online survey of a representative sample of 1,000 young men from across the country, as well as focus group discussions with two groups of young men. This study is modelled on research in the United States, United Kingdom and Mexico that was released by Promundo in 2017.

The findings shed a new light on the social pressures that young Australian men experience to be a ‘real man’ and the impact this can have on their wellbeing, behaviours and the safety of our wider community.

What is the Man Box?

  • The Man Box is a set of beliefs within and across society that place pressure on men to be a certain way – to be tough; not to show any emotions; to be the breadwinner, to always be in control, use violence to solve problems; and to have many sexual partners.
  • Some of these beliefs, such as condoning the use of violence, are always wrong; others, such as acting strong, can sometimes be useful but at other times lead to problems (for instance when bottling up negative emotions).

Key findings

  • The Man Box is alive and well in Australia today. The majority of young men agree there are social pressures on them to behave or act a certain way because of their gender.
  • The majority of young men surveyed disagreed with the Man Box beliefs. But there is still a large number who agree with some of the beliefs that make up the Man Box, including being strong, not showing vulnerability, always being in control and men being the primary providers at home.
  • Living up to the pressures of being a ‘real man’ causes harm to young men and those around them, particularly women.
  • Young men who most strongly agree with these rules report poorer levels of mental health, engage in risky drinking, are more likely to be in car accidents and to report committing acts of violence, online bullying and sexual harassment.
  • We need action across the community and in the form of new programs which will deliver benefits to society, as well as to the young men themselves in terms of health, wellbeing and safety.

The pressures relating to being a man are everywhere in society and are reinforced and influenced by young men’s closest relationships – families, partners and friends.

Across all levels of society there must be a focus on building awareness of the Man Box norms and their harmful impacts. Positive alternatives should be promoted.

Everyone can take action by talking about the pressures of the Man Box with the boys and men in their lives, and by modelling positive alternatives to the Man Box norms in front of boys and young men.

We recommend action across a range of levels, from government to business, to community and academia to develop and test new approaches to these issues with young men. We also recommend further research to understand these issues in more detail.

Download full report – The Man Box: A study on being a young man in Australia